What’s going on with rescue during Coronavirus and how to adopt or foster

Well, we’re officially on day 17 of our quarantine (the State of Illinois began “Shelter in Place” on 3/21 but we started on 3/16) and we’re doing well. Can’t say we’re completely sane (I did learn a N*SYNC dance this morning…) but we’re taking it in stride. The good news is we have four animals to keep us entertained for hours on end. 

With a majority of the country also being at home, so many people are looking to add furry members to their family. Every day I get a few messages from friends/relatives/followers asking where they can foster or adopt a dog. It’s amazing to see people opening up their homes. I wish I had these kinds of messages throughout the year!

Here’s what is going on with rescue right now in Chicago. 

Not a lot of animals in need

The best news is that the shelters are fairly empty so not a ton of animals are in need of a home! This is because a large number of people came forward about 2 weeks ago to foster or adopt. As of this morning (April 2), this is what the population looked like at Chicago Animal Care & Control:

  • 60 dogs
  • 6 cats
  • 1 bird

For comparison’s sake here is what our population typically looks like at Chicago Animal Care and Control:

  • 260-300 dogs
  • 150-200 cats
  • misc wildlife/birds/small animals

As you can see, having a population in the double digits is certainly unheard of. Generally, we volunteers celebrate when there are close to 200 dogs and under 100 cats (which rarely happens!!) So, we’re ecstatic about these numbers. 

High demand

Coupled with that low number of animals is the number of people wanting a furry companion. Rescues have gotten more foster and adoption applications than ever before. For example, One Tail at a Time got more than 500+ foster applications and about 2500 adoption applications since the start of the Coronavirus. They currently have about 210 animals in their care when they usually have closer to 150.

One Tail at a Time’s story is echoed across most rescues in Chicago. There is an overwhelming number of people wanting an animal. Never in rescue have I ever seen demand like this. 

Rescues don’t have endless resources

Almost every rescue I know took in a larger-than-normal number of animals when the quarantine began. Because of this, they have way more animals in their care right now than they normally would. While this is great, it also stretches their resources thin. 

First, all these animals require supplies; food, bowls, leashes, collars, litter, littler boxes, etc. Rescues don’t have a huge stockpile and getting these supplies quickly is certainly difficult with slower than normal deliveries. Rescues cannot take in more animals than they can care for. 

Beyond the logistics of actually getting supplies is the cost associated with them. Again, nobody saw this coming and most rescues aren’t flush with cash to spend supplies immediately. With everyone feeling the effects of the pandemic on their wallers, rescues need to be careful with their money.

Vet care

Like the majority of doctors’ offices, most veterinary clinics are limiting their practice. Some are only doing emergency calls while others have closed altogether. This makes it that much harder for rescues to bring in a lot of animals. Most animals need to be seen by a vet once they are brought into a rescue.

With limited veterinary availability, rescues need to be careful with taking in too many animals at once. They can only take in as many animals as they can care for in all aspects, veterinary care included.

Limited staff

As you can imagine, with all the extra animals, applications, and supplies, staff and volunteers are overwhelmed. Most employees are doing more work than usual and taking on as many roles as possible. On top of the world being a stressful place, they have a lot of their plates. 

Volunteers are also stepping up but most have other jobs, kids, and priorities. Since a majority of rescue is volunteer-based, it’s important to remember this is not their full-time job. Please be considerate when working with members of the rescue community! 

What to do if you want a pet…

Okay, now that we’ve covered all the bases of what’s happening in rescue right now, here’s my advice if you want to foster/adopt!

  1. Be patient – I cannot stress this enough. Everything is changing daily (hourly??) and things are new for everyone. Old procedures are out the window and they’re are adjusting as quickly as possible.

  2. Submit your app now – Most rescues are continuing to take in animals so the supply won’t stop. By filling out an adoption/foster application, your info will be on file with that rescue. There may not be a fit for you immediately, but if you are patient, they’ll find you a companion with time!

  3. Check out smaller rescues for adoptions – The big rescues have a lot more demand, try taking a look at a smaller organization! K9 4 Keeps, It’s a Pittie Rescue, MCP Rescue, Pittie Please Rescue, Chicago Canine Rescue, Lulu’s Locker Rescue, Chicagoland Dog Rescue, One More Dog Rescue, New Leash on Life, Heartland Animal Shelter, Dogs are Deserving Rescue, Orphans of the Storm, Felines & Canines, Catnap from the Heart, Grassroots Animal Rescue, Chicagoland Bully Breed Rescue, and so many others!

  4. Check out your city shelter – Chicago Animal Care & Control is still open for adoptions, just using a different approach. Visit Petharbor.com/Chicago or visit @CACCadoptables on Facebook to view photos and bios of the animals. If you find an animal that you are interested in, please email Visitcacc@gmail.com with your name, phone number and the name and the ID (A#) of the animal you are interested in. Click here for more details!
  5. Do your homework – If you’re looking to adopt, make sure you’re working with a reputable rescue. Most organizations are wonderful, but there are some with poor animal care practices. 

  6. We need longterm fosters – I would say the prime fosters right now are those who can foster longterm. Even more of a bonus is if you do not have other pets in your home! You are the fosters that rescues are still needing. If that’s you, please consider filling out this survey so we can match you to a rescue that fits your needs!

  7. Don’t go to a breeder/pet store – I promise with time, you’ll find an animal for you! If not in Chicago, there are animals across the nation, and the world, in need of a home!

I hope this helps. I know there’s some frustration in wanting to help and have a furry family member, but everyone is doing their best! It’s been an incredible time to be in rescue. I truly believe this could be the turning point with so many aspects to how we an operate and I look forward to seeing so many animals happily in their forever homes!


Wally has been rescued but check out all the dogs available for adoption here at CACC here. 


This tee was designed by the incredibly talented Dog Transfer Team. You can try to snag one by emailing CACCMerch@gmail.com.



All photos: Mandy Dempsey Photography


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